I struggled with the fact that I would never be an artist.
Art seemed logical to me: Yellow and blue make green. Red and blue create purple. You can color with acrylic, oils, pastel, and charcoal. You can strive to be like Picasso, Matisse, Monet.
My art was never ok: I scribbled like a kindergartener.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, art is the use of creativity, skill, and imagination to create something that’s beautiful or emotionally expressive. This definition uses logical words to describe the technique which ironically left me uninspired of who I could become.
I was an observer. An onlooker. A wallflower at best.
My soul longed to create art with colors that didn’t exist yet.
We live in a society that dictates reason and logic. Right and wrong. Black and white. We have no room for a colorful, abstract definition.
My canvas was blank. And I was boxed into the linear life.
But then I stumbled on this quote by Seth Godin in his book, The Linchpin:
Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator…
Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.
His non-linear definition lit me up.
In an article in The Atlantic, William Deresiewicz argued for a new definition of artist:
A new paradigm is emerging, and has been since about the turn of the millennium, one that’s in the process of reshaping what artists are: how they work, train, trade, collaborate, think of themselves and are thought of — even what art is — just as the solitary-genius model did two centuries ago. The new paradigm may finally destroy the very notion of “art” as such — that sacred spiritual substance — which the older one created.
Suddenly my mindset changed of what it means to be an artist.
I finally had the chutzpah to declare to the world that I was an artist — a real, true artist! I even started referring to myself as an artist in conversations.
My friends and family laughed. “Where is your art?” they’d ask.
They were right. My art, my words, my poetry — hung out in a private journal. Too scared to publish my personal thoughts and ideas to the world, I focused on building my career instead. The logical world left no room for the wannabe artist or artist in-progress.
But real life paled in comparison to my imagination. How could I communicate the vibrancy of how I perceived the world? I saw purple and cyan, sprinkled with a pink that no one has ever seen. According to titles, I had to live a dull, uninspired existence within the confines of “reality.” But according to my imagination, I could exist in a portal to an alternate universe where non-linear time liberated my metaphysical, human experience.
We live in personal prisons of labels and language
Over the course of my career, I leaned towards the more logical titles to make up for my shortcomings. I studied the power of language and words and how they influence our perception. Psychology, media theory, and writing became my passions. I self-educated myself on every topic that interested me so that I could learn the rules of rationality.
Over my career I was an academic, a journalist, a marketer. But each one of these roles felt limiting and polarizing in its own way. Michael Simmons believes:
Academics often look down on journalists; journalists look down on marketers; and marketers look down on journalists and academics. What many fail to see is that each brings something valuable to the table and that all of these skills combined lead to great ideas seen by large audiences.
Does Intention Transcend Titles?
Dipping my toes in each of the worlds of academia, journalism, and marketing has allowed me to slowly let go of the logic of each title and embrace the illogical within the abstract world.
“Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” — Picasso
No matter what you label yourself, you have the ability to transform your perception: Scribble outside the lines and blur the edges. Allow color to create an alternate reality. You’ll never know who you’ll become.
But it’s not easy.
The world teaches us to extract right and wrong, which limits how much you can take from of a particular piece of writing. We often critique another’s ideas based on our experience of reality.
A linear life creates a logical existence. But the human experience is quite often multidimensional.
“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” — Edgar Allen Poe
In Poe’s poem, he explores how our perceptions of life impact our reality and experiences. The poem is symbolic of life slipping away, trickling like “sand,” and implies that our existence is merely an abstraction of the mind.
Art creates something from nothing.
The best marketers don’t fit a linear label. They self-express for HEO (I write more about this here). They’re the dreamers and rebels who captivate an audience through art and stories, imaginations freed from the structure of language.
As a little girl of seven years old I wrote this poem:
the serene sight
the birds at night
draw me closer and closer
as I walk alone the lonely shore
I see something
much, much more
it’s not the peaceful scenery
that guides me
but something much deeper
I think it’s something called “life”
that optimizes me.
I’m not sure how I knew the word “optimize” at seven (growth hacking?) But the dream within a dream of the blank canvas of my mind expressed my perception. My painting doesn’t look like a Picasso, Matisse or a Monet (and my writing doesn’t look like a Neil Patel or Gary V). But I’ve learned that it’s okay — as long as words tell a story.
Great art doesn’t need visuals: The abstract can spark thought. The illogical can provoke conversations. And the metaphysical can create meaning.
If Poe is right and our existence is an abstraction of the mind, designing our destiny looks like poetry. Our imaginations are the portal at the edge of reality.
The next paradigm is here — and optimizing our human potential couldn’t feel more real.